Many people think of the Mediterranean diet as one type of diet that contains lots of olive oil, grilled meat, pasta and bread. However, there are many different Mediterranean diets, probably about 30 different types, as there are many countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. All these different diets vary in the amount and type of fat, type of meats, type of dairy foods, amount of pasta and bread they contain.
The traditional Cretan (or Greek) Mediterranean diet is considered in scientific circles as the archetypal Mediterranean diet. It was first described by epidemiologist Ancel Keys and co-workers in the 7-Countries Study of the 1960s (Keys et al. 1980. Seven countries : a multivariate analysis of death and coronary heart disease. Harvard University Press). This important study showed that people from the Island of Crete in Greece had the lowest rate of death from heart disease compared with other countries in the study and this protection from heart disease was attributed to their diet.
Many other studies since the 1960s have shown the benefits of the traditional Cretan Mediterranean diet for protection from many chronic diseases and promoting longevity. The traditional Cretan Mediterranean diet consists of a high intake of vegetables (particularly leafy greens) and fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals, (mainly sourdough bread rather than pasta), olive oil as the main fat in the diet, cheese in moderation (particularly goats cheese), yoghurt, nuts, more fish, less meat, and moderate amounts of wine with meals.
Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos has spent the last 15 years of her career investigating the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. One of the studies is described below:
The Impact of the traditional “Cretan” Mediterranean diet in the management of type 2 diabetes.
In this study 27 people with type 2 diabetes were randomised to either follow a traditional Mediterranean-type diet (where nearly all of the food was provided) for 3 months and then cross-over to their usual diet for a following 3 months. Weight status and measures of diabetes control were assessed before and after each diet. The study found that metabolic control of diabetes (as measured by HbA1c) improved on the Mediterranean diet, yet stayed the same of the usual diet. People reported really enjoying the Mediterranean diet and felt more energetic following 3 months on the diet.
Please click here for a menu of the Mediterranean diet.
Please click here for a sample of the recipes from the Mediterranean diet.